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article imageTwo Europeans confirmed to have been reinfected with COVID-19

By Karen Graham     Aug 25, 2020 in Health
Two European patients are confirmed to have been re-infected with the coronavirus, raising concerns about people’s immunity to the virus as the world struggles to tame the pandemic.
The report of the case in Belgium and another in the Netherlands, follows a report out of Hong Kong on Monday of a confirmed case of a man who had been reinfected with a different strain of the coronavirus from the one he had originally came down with. The Hong Kong case was the first such reinfection to be documented.
Needless to say, this revelation has raised fears over the effectiveness of potential vaccines against the virus, which has infected
23,690,270 people worldwide and resulted in the death of 814,135 people, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID Tracker.
Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst said the Belgian case was a woman who had contracted COVID-19 for the first time in March. She recovered and was reinfected in June, according to Reuters. The doctor says he predicts that further cases will emerge.
“We don’t know if there will be a large number. I think probably not, but we will have to see,” he told Reuters, noting that COVID-19 had only been in humans for less than a year. Perhaps a vaccine will need to be repeated every year, or within two or three years. It seems clear though that we won’t have something that works for, say, 10 years,” he said.
Monoclonal antibodies bind to certain proteins on a virus  neutralizing its ability to infect human ...
Monoclonal antibodies bind to certain proteins on a virus, neutralizing its ability to infect human cells
Lizabeth MENZIES, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/AFP/File
Dr. Van Ranst also pointed out that the Belgian women's symptoms were somewhat mild, suggesting that the body may not have produced enough antibodies to prevent a reinfection, although they might have helped limit the sickness.
The National Institute for Public Health in the Netherlands said it had also observed a Dutch case of re-infection, reports US News.
According to Dutch broadcaster NOS, Virologist Marion Koopmans was quoted as saying the patient was an older person with a weakened immune system. She did note that flareups of the virus in people who have been sick with the virus a long time were better known.
CDC has developed a new laboratory test kit for use in testing patient specimens for severe acute re...
CDC has developed a new laboratory test kit for use in testing patient specimens for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes COVID-19.
CDC
In the Dutch, Belgian and Hong Kong cases, it took genetic testing to prove they had a true reinfection on their hands. Van Ranst said such testing showed the Belgian patient had caught different strains of the virus. This is consistant with the case of the young man in Hong Kong who also caught different sdtrains of the virus.
Some health experts are suggesting that we are beginning to see more of what appears to be reinfections because we are doing more testings. This is why WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told a U.N. briefing in Geneva it was important to get documentation on any suspected case of reinfection.
Even so, Dr. David Strain, a clinical senior lecturer at the University of Exeter and chair of the British Medical Association's medical academic staff committee, said the cases were worrying for several reasons. "The first is that it suggests that previous infection is not protective," he said. "The second is that it raises the possibility that vaccinations may not provide the hope that we have been waiting for."
All this only adds to the perplexity of the coronavirus, a virus we are still learning a great deal about. The new coronavirus, Sars-CoV-2, has not been around long enough to know how long immunity lasts, however, we do have a few clues, reports the BBC.
This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2—also known as 2019-nCoV  the virus th...
This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—isolated from a patient in the U.S.
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) (CC BY 2.0)
Four other human coronaviruses produce what is known as the "common cold." Immunity is usually short-lived and a person can be reinfected within a year. Research at King's College London has also suggested that levels of antibodies that kill Covid-19 waned over the three month study.
But, even if antibodies seem to disappear, the cells that produce them - B Cells - could still be around in the body. Here's an interesting factoid: B cells for the Spanish Flu have been found in people 90 years after that pandemic. T cells against the original Sars (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) have been found recovered patients 17 in years later.
So, if this is true, it may be that if a person does get reinfected with COVID-19, the second infection would be milder than the first. While re-infection isn't surprising, health experts say it's likely to be rare, and larger studies are needed to understand why this might happen.
More about coronavirus, reinfection, European patients, Hong Kong patient, Vaccines
 
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